My name is Laura Harris and I am a recovering sloppy spender.
“Hi, Laura,” you all say. Thank you. So kind.
Five years ago, I was engaged to the love of my life, wallowing in debt, embarrassed by my dwindling savings account, and anxious about our future.
Twenty-two radical months later, my husband and I paid off our last student loan, and we became 100% debt-free.
This is our story.
Learning New Habits
A few days after becoming engaged, I discovered a class called Financial Peace University. It centered around personal finance, a concept new to me since I was used to the banking world in which I worked.
I had a sinking feeling that my fiancé for all of three days would be offended that I wanted us to take a money class. Instead, he was all for it. That was a pivotal moment for us. We finished with a powerful foundation on which we built the first years of our marriage.
Tools We Used On Our Debt-Free Journey
In order for my husband and I to achieve our goal of becoming debt-free in two years, we had to make some radical changes. Perhaps they seem obvious, but when I really looked at how I was using my money, the revelations shocked me. Change isn’t always easy, but it was so worth the work for us.
Here are 4 tools we used to become debt-free:
- Communication. My husband and I are as opposite as it gets. He speaks his mind; I don’t like confrontation. His texts are one to four words long; mine are three pages long. He’s a natural spender; I’m a natural saver. Being deeply in debt made him feel like a failure; it made me feel unsafe. Talking through much of that paved the way for better teamwork, more grace, and a stronger relationship.
- Emergency Fund. Call it a buffer against the world and its unpredictable what-have-yous. Getting that first $1000 into an emergency savings account before we threw every extra dollar at debt made me feel a great deal more secure and empowered.
- The Four Walls. Dave Ramsey refers to your most important expenses as the “four walls.” Food, shelter, clothing, and transportation make up these walls. When we began chasing our debt-free rainbow, we spent as little as we could once the four walls were protected. This helped us me establish a healthier spending pattern with needs versus wants.
- One-Income Family. The most drastic step my husband and I took during our first year of marriage was to live on his income and pour every cent of my full-time paycheck into paying off debt. It was radical and it didn’t happen overnight, but that student loan balance melted when we did that.
Remembering the “Why”
The overarching tool that helped my husband and I the most was our “why.” At first, the reason why we chose to eliminate debt was because we wanted financial freedom. Then, almost a year into our marriage, I found out I was pregnant. Our why became that tiny shape on the glossy, black and white lab photos displayed proudly on our apartment refrigerator.
We paid off $22,000 in 22 months. Six weeks later, we paid for a hospital delivery bill in cash and brought our daughter into a debt-free home.
If a sloppy spender like me can do it, you can do it to.
What’s your why? Share in the comments below.
Laura Harris is a writer, wife, financial coach, and mother of two. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, and Rockstar Finance. When she’s not spending time with her family, you can find her writing about the triumphs and trials of a work-at-home mom at LauraHarrisWrites.com or Facebook.